Tuesday, May 31, 2016

#REVIEW: Swimming With Faith by Natalie Davis Miller

Title: Swimming With Faith: The Missy Franklin story
Author: Natalie Davis Miller
Series: Zonderkidz Biography
Publisher: Zonderkidz
Published Date: May 10, 2016
ISBN: 9780310747079
Genre: biography
Pages: 142
Age Range: 8-12 year olds
Buy It Link: Amazon
Missy Franklin is one of the most talented swimmers in the world. She is a four-time Olympic gold medalist and currently holds the world record in the 200-meter backstroke and American records in both the 100-meter and 200-meter backstroke. She was Swimming World’s World Swimmer of the Year and was awarded the American Swimmer of the Year award in 2012. Swimming with Faith: The Missy Franklin Story details her rise in fame as a swimmer and humbleness in the sport and in her personal life.

My Rating: 4 1/2 stars

My Review: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
For the past year or so, my two daughters have really been enjoying swimming. And because of that, when I saw this book, I thought it would be great for my oldest to read. It's right in her age range, it's about something she loves, and it's about an athlete's love and faith in God.
The book itself is written so it is easy to read, and understand. It includes many quotes from Missy Franklin, so when you're reading it, it is almost as if you're listening to Missy talk about her experiences.
It is wonderful to see a young athlete, of Olympic caliber, to not be overwhelmed by the publicity, the fame, or the money, and instead, focus on what she truly wants to do. Having a plan and going for it is so crucial to this story. Especially on the football field, you see a lot of athletes calling attention to their faith and it becoming a media circus. I love how Missy Franklin has quietly kept to her faith and not used it as a way to even more fame.

#REVIEW: There Will Be Stars by Billy Coffey

Title: There Will Be Stars
Author: Billy Coffey
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Published Date: May 3, 2016
ISBN: 978-0718026820
Genre: Fiction
Buy It Link: Amazon
No one in Mattingly ever believed Bobby Barnes would live to see old age. Drink would either rot Bobby from the inside out or dull his senses just enough to send his truck off the mountain on one of his nightly rides. Although Bobby believes such an end possible—and even likely—it doesn’t stop him from taking his twin sons Matthew and Mark into the mountains one Saturday night. A sharp curve, blinding headlights, metal on metal, his sons’ screams. Bobby’s final thought as he sinks into blackness is a curious one—There will be stars.

Yet it is not death that greets him beyond the veil. Instead, he returns to the day he has just lived and finds he is not alone in this strange new world. Six others are trapped with him.
Bobby soon discovers that this supposed place of peace is actually a place of secrets and hidden dangers. Along with three others, he seeks to escape, even as the world around him begins to crumble. The escape will lead some to greater life, others to endless death . . . and Bobby Barnes to understand the deepest nature of love.

My Rating: 3 1/2 stars

My Review: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
This had to be one of the strangest books I have read. Bobby is a typical alcoholic, never thinking he really has a problem, just kind of stumbling through life without realizing how much he is hurting himself and others. How the heck an obvious alcoholic man with no visible means of income can possibly keep his kids with him, I'm still scratching my head over that one. Either way, driving drunk ends up killing him and his twin boys on a mountain, and that's just the first chapter. Now he finds himself "re-living" the day of his death over and over again with 6 other people stuck in the same day.
The story gets progressively darker and darker until I really wanted to put it down, and yet, I needed to know what would happen. It was like seeing a train wreck over and over again and yet hoping that it would turn out differently every single time.
It took until the very last chapter for the book to redeem itself, and that's the only reason why I am so glad I decided to slog through the darkness and violence to finish it.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

#REVIEW: My Toddler Bible by Juliette David

Title: My Toddler Bible
Author: Juliette David 
Illustrations by Chris Embleton-Hall
Publisher: Candle Books
Published Date: April 27,2016
Pages: 224
Buy it Link: Amazon

Synopsis: Fans of Chris Embleton-Hall's cheerfully distinctive artwork will be eager to see this new Bible! Twenty stories―nine from the Old Testament and eleven from the New―are retold in a concise and friendly manner in a rounded, easy-to-read font. Very, very bright, and very, very fun!

My Rating: 4 Stars

My Review: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
This book is written for ages 3-5, and as such, is colorful and full of the favorite Bible stories we have all grown up with. The book is broken down into the Old Testament and he New Testament. There are 9 stories from the Old Testament and 11 stories from the New Testament. These stories are just short enough and colorful enough to keep the attention span of a toddler, which is about the span of a gnat's.
No, this book has nothing of sin or salvation or grace in it. It does talk about disobeying God and the consequences, in a very gentle way in the Garden of Eden story. I honestly don't think these are topics appropriate for this age range, so I see nothing wrong with keeping them out.
Overall, I hint this is a very age appropriate book for toddlers to introduce them to the Bible.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

#REVIEW: NKJV: The Chronological Study Bible

Title: NKJV: The Chronological Study Bible
Series: Signature Series
Author: various
Published Date: May 3, 2016
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
ISBN: 9780718076894
Buy it Link: Amazon | Thomas Nelson

Synopsis: The Bible that allows you to study Scripture in the order of events as they happened
The Chronological Study Bible presents the text of the New King James Version in chronological order - the order in which the events actually happened - with notes, articles, and full-color graphics that connect the reader to the history and culture of Bible times. It is the only NKJV study Bible arranged in chronological order.
Features include:
  • The entire NKJV text with translators’ notes, arranged in chronological order, provides absorbing and effective Bible study
  • Full-color illustrations of places, artifacts, and cultural phenomena give the reader a dramatic, “you are there” experience
  • Fascinating articles connect the Bible text to world history and culture
  • Daily Life Notes explain how people lived in Bible times
  • Time Panels and Charts show the flow of Bible history
  • In-text and full-page color maps of the biblical world assist study
My Rating: 4 1/2 stars

My Review: I received a copy of this Bible in exchange for an honest review from the publisher.
This is a fantastic study Bible to have. I have decided to read the Bible chronologically this year (yes, starting today), and have found this Bible to help me put all the pieces together, like archeology, historical knowledge as well as the Bible and get a full overview of the people in the Bible and what was going on in the world around them at the time. In Genesis, it's nice to read the commentary next to the creation stories about the surrounding cultures and their beliefs of creation, and how it is similar or different from our Bible.
For me, it's not too much of a stretch to think that what we have as our Bible, especially the beginning parts of it, is a cultural mishmash of beliefs from the peoples around the region of the Mesopotamian delta. Oral history was the primary source of cultural identity for thousands of years, and as cultures melded, died out and evolved, stories changed, perhaps not grossly re-editted, but details were probably added or changed as the generations progressed. I know my thoughts are not the most popular and there are those who see the Bible as written down word for word from God. However, this Bible helps me to see the larger picture of the cultures surrounding the events happening in the Bible. This is actually my favorite part of this Bible.
This Bible breaks down the timeline into 9 different "epochs" or time periods, with each having an introduction:

Epoch 1: Creation- 2000 B.C.;
Epoch 2: 2000-1500 B.C.;
Epoch 3: 1500-1200 B.C.;
Epoch 4: 1200-930 B.C.;
Epoch 5: 930-586 B.C.;
Epoch 6: 586-332 B.C.;
Epoch 7: 332-37 B.C.;
Epoch 8: 37 B.C.- A.D. 30;
Epoch 9: A.D. 30-100

There is also a concordance and reading plans as well at the end of the Bible for you to use as you would like that are very helpful.
This Bible is absolutely beautiful. It is a brown and blue imitation leather, very sturdy and well-made. There aren't any real margins for you to write a lot of notes in, so if you're going to use this as a primary study Bible, you will need to have a notebook handy to write in. It is full color but it's not distracting from reading. The only thing I do not like about this Bible is that the pages stick together very easily and they are hard to pull apart because of the gold on the edges. Most of my Bibles at home are NIV, but every time I read the NKJV edition, I am struck at how much this really is my favorite translation.

#BLAST: Reunited: A Gift From God by Madlyn E Marshall

Madlyn E. Marshall 
Madlyn Marshall is the Founder of G.R.A.C.E. Financial Ministry Inc. G.R.A C.E is an acronym for “God’s Resources Advancing Christian Evangelism” a biblically based financial management and budgeting ministry. Madlyn is also conducts workshops writing all the material used in the workshops as well as during one on one consulting sessions.
Madlyn has also written several short stories and poems. It is in this genre where Madlyn has the opportunity to share the creative side of her writing. Madlyn has a vivid imagination and a unique way of bringing the stories and characters she writes about to life with descriptive images.
The Window of the Heart series is a collection of small fictional stories that explore the depth of God’s love and His capacity to restore that which was lost, albeit relationships, a renewed sense of oneself, or joy that had been buried under the weight of life’s challenges. In these stories, you will laugh, cry, and paused to think about your own challenges and I hope come away with a renewed spirit and a stronger faith.
In the first of the three book series, ReUnited – A Gift from God; the characters struggle with their faith in God, and the pain from their past. Can they truly forgive? Can they trust God and allow Him to heal their brokenness? Tony and Elaine have the opportunity to answer these questions and more because they are thrown together in an unlikely place, on top of a mountain in Alberta, Canada. There is no place for either of them to go, so they are force to face their fears and their past lives together.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

#REVIEW: The End of Law: A Novel of Hitler's Germany by Therese Down

Title: The End of Law: A Novel of Hitler's Germany
Series: none
Author: Therese Down
Publisher: Lion Fiction
Published Date: March 27. 2016
ISBN: 978-1782641902
Genre: historical fiction
Pages: 320

Buy It Link: Amazon

Synopsis: Berlin, 1933: as Hitler rises to power; the law--designed to protect and serve--becomes twisted to the will of those who dream of a pure Aryan race.
SS Officer Walter Gunther is intensely loyal to the Third Reich. His readiness to kill without question or remorse would seem to make him the ideal candidate to lead the T4 euthanasia programme. SS officer Karl Muller, a trainee doctor and engineer, is also brought into the programme, and assured that his work is consistent with the Hippocratic oath he's due to take.
Their mandate: to kill the "unworthies"--not just the Jews, but crippled children, the mentally ill, homosexuals. Hedda, Walter's wife and old acquaintance of Karl, has no idea of what their work entails. Until, that is, the fate of their families is at stake, and each must confront afresh the choices they have made.
This dark, tense novel is a compelling story of human tragedy, and man's potential to revel in, or fight against, the evil actions of a corrupted nation.

My Rating: 4 1/2 stars

My Review: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review from the publisher.

This book is a gripping, no-holds barred fictional account of Hitler Germany through the eyes of three people: Walter Gunther, a fanatically loyal and ambitious SS officer; his wife, Hedda, a naive woman who only seeks approval from her parents; and Karl, another SS officer who is both emotional at times, and starkly moral as the book progresses.
The book delves into the T4 program, showing a harsh reality behind the program designed to "euthanize" those that are mentally ill, handicapped, elderly, or somehow "less" than perfect. The book's description of the atrocities done to these people ranging in age from infancy all the way to elderly made my stomach roil at times and made me want to put down the book, but at the same time, Karl's character gave me hope for the end of the book as he became the struggling moral compass through the storyline. It was eye opening also to read about those workers who ended up not being mindless drones who would kill these people that were thrown into this T4 program, and it helped me to see that there is humanity, even in those who seem the most heartless.
I thoroughly enjoyed watching how Hedda's character progessed and evolved from a mindless, vapid and naive young woman, into a brave and fearless mother who would fight against the whole of the society she was in to save her child. At the same time, as Hedda grows, Walter becomes more violently fanatical up to the very end, doing things that can be disturbing to the reader. Karl doesn't progress as much physically, or as obviously as the other two main characters, but his morality and faith grow until the end of the book.
Overall, though this book was a rollercoaster of emotional upheaval for me, it was a boook I couldn't put down until the end.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

#REVIEW: Man, Myth, Messiah by Rice Broocks

Title: Man, Myth, Messiah
Series: Follow up to God's Not Dead
Author: Rice Broocks
Published Date: March 1, 2016
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Pages: 305
Buy It Link: Amazon
Synopsis:  Did Jesus Really Exist?
The search for the historical Jesus continues to be headline news. Any speculative theory seems to get instant attention as the debate rages about His real identity and the claims made in His name. Did Jesus really exist? Is there real historical evidence that demonstrates that He lived and actually said and did the things the Gospels record? Is there any validity to the speculative claims that the Jesus story was a myth, borrowed from a variety of pagan cultures of the ancient world?
In this follow-up to the book God’s Not Dead (that inspired the movie), Man, Myth, Messiah looks at the evidence for the historical Jesus and exposes the notions of skeptics that Jesus was a contrived figure of ancient mythology. It also looks at the reliability of the Gospel records as well as the evidence for the resurrection that validates His identity as the promised Messiah. Man, Myth, Messiah will be released concurrent to the God’s Not Dead movie sequel, which will cover the same theme.

My Rating: 3 stars

My Review: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
I was expecting so much more from this book. I was expecting real facts, more meat, something more to chew on besides, "The gospels say it is so." Of course, I am always looking for more meat, something more than just the Gospels, something more along the lines of historians like Josephus. It didn't feel like the author gave enough when he went into the non-Christian historians of the day. That would have helped immensely.
From the surface, it was an good read, probably enough for a new believer to digest, in fact probably enough for them to truly put some trust and faith into. For the already believers who are looking deeper into apologetics, this just didn't seem to have enough to it.
Most of the points the author gives to defend your faith are the same points given in every other apologetics essay, and unfortunately, some non-believers, skeptics, have all heard the same arguments before and have their own answers.

#REVIEW: 40 Days of Decrease by Alicia Britt Chole

Title: 40 Days of Decrease: A Different Kind of Hunger, A Different Kind of Fast
Author: Alicia Britt Chole
Series: none
Publish Date: Jan 5, 2016
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
ISBN: 978-0718076603
Buy It Link: Amazon

What if you fasted regret?
What if your friends fasted comparison?
What if your generation fasted escapism?
What if your community fasted spectatorship?

Such heart-fasts could trigger a spiritual revolution!

Via readings, refection questions, daily fasts, ancient quotes, and more, this is the dream of 40 Days of Decrease: A Different Kind of Hunger. A Different Kind of Fast.
Every day offers a meaningful consideration of Jesus’ journey and then invites readers into a daily fast of heart-clutter, the stuff that sticks to our souls and weighs us down.
You can begin your forty-day journey any time of the year, but you may find it especially meaningful as a Lenten preparation to live in awe of Jesus’ resurrection.

Each daily, 1000-word entry will include

  • a devotional based on Jesus’ cross-ward life;
  • a reflection question to guide journaling or group discussion;
  • a heart fast to inspire a tangible response;
  • a thought-provoking Lenten quote;
  • an optional sidebar into the historical development of Lent.
  • a suggested reading that takes you from John 12 to John 21
  • journaling space for reflection
 In the same way self cannot satisfy self no matter how long it feasts, self cannot starve self no matter how long it fasts. Decrease—like increase—is only holy when its destination is love.
We thin our lives to thicken our communion with God.

My Rating: 4 stars

My Review: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
This has been an absolutely fascinating book to go through during and after Lent. You definitely don't have to wait until Lent to start this book.
Growing up, the biggest question around Lent was "What are you giving up?" Chocolate was a big choice, meat was an obvious, though not that hard living in New Orleans where seafood reigns supreme (burger or fried shrimp po-boy.....see what I'm saying?) As I became an adult and came back to the church, I was introduced to the idea of not giving things up, but instead adding a practice that would help others (food pantry, helping at a homeless shelter, donating clothing, etc).
This book revolutionized the way I thought of giving things up, and though I had already started my Lenten fast, I have started and continued this book after Easter. Instead of giving up food, caffiene, chocolate, sweets, or other obvious choices, you fast through comparison for one day, regret the next, and so on.
It made me so aware of the things I do on a daily basis that I am not even aware of that make my life not as joyful as it should be, and it helped me to live a better, more fulfilling life, even if it was only for forty days.